How Can I Tell if My Aging Parent Is Addicted to Drugs or Just Getting Older?

I Tell if My Aging Parent Is Addicted to Drugs or Just Getting Older

Knowing how to interpret the signs can lead to finding the right kind of help.

Changes in appetite, memory lapses, new sleep patterns, and for many, an increasing disinterest in daily hygiene and appearance are normal signs of aging. While loved ones expect this natural evolution, it is frightening when a parent exhibits unusual behavior, such as talking to people who aren’t there and babbling incoherently.

When a parent consumes alcohol, it might seem logical to assume excessive drinking is causing erratic behavior. However, it is important to find the root cause before encouraging a parent to seek out alcohol treatment programs.

Did you know . . .

  • Older Americans are more likely than other age groups to use alcohol to relieve physical and emotional pain.
  • Only 13% of the US population is 65 or older, yet one-third of all painkillers and tranquilizers are prescribed to this age group.
  • Metoprolol – a commonly prescribed blood pressure medication – is known to cause visual hallucinations
  • Older patients are admitted to hospitals at the same rate for alcohol-related events as cardiovascular (CV) events

Many in the medical community believe that escalating substance misuse among the elderly is the most serious health challenge we face today. A ScienceDirect published study revealed alcohol abuse is more likely to produce psychotic symptoms than any other misused substance, except cocaine.

Not all delusional episodes are related to substance abuse. For example, people who have Lewy body disease, which is a neurodegenerative disease that creates abnormal protein formation in nerve cells, often report auditory, visual and olfactory hallucinations.

So, how can one be sure behavior and personality changes are age-related and that it’s not the time to discuss alcohol treatment options with an aging parent?

Discuss all physical and mental changes with a geriatric specialist. When testing confirms substance misuse, request referrals to alcohol rehab centers offering age-specific treatment plans.

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